Why 2016 Is the Year of Solar

Guest post from EnergySage, a partner for clean energy 2016 is poised to be the best year yet for solar. At some time during the next few months, the U.S. will reach a milestone of one million solar homes, and industry experts predict that this solar momentum will continue throughout the year. If you’ve been thinking about installing a solar energy system, 2016 is the year to go for it. Read on to find out why we’re now beginning the Year of Solar. Solar is more accessible than ever in 2016  The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research are predicting that the costs of going solar will continue to drop in 2016, while electricity prices are going to continue to increase. Lower costs mean that it will take even less time for consumers to achieve payback on their solar investment, and in 2015, the average national payback period for solar shoppers in the EnergySage Solar Marketplace was just 7.5 years! Solar panels generate electricity for 25 to 35 years, and a shorter payback period means you benefit from more free electricity over the lifetime of your solar energy system. Experts agree that low-cost solar financing options are necessary to support homeowners installing solar. In 2016, it’s becoming easier than ever to access solar financing, thanks to new state-level initiatives like Massachusetts’ Mass Solar Loan program. Programs like Mass Solar Loan offer low-interest fixed-term solar loans to homeowners, and sometimes offer additional support to solar shoppers who meet particular income requirements.   Government […]

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Wisconsin Utility Latest to Propose Anti-Solar Policy, Met with Strong Opposition

Wisconsin utility WE Energies recently proposed a hike in electricity rates on consumers, singling out residents who have opted to generate their own electricity through solar panels. The extra charge on residents who sell their excess power back to the grid has incited outrage at local and national levels. The utility claims the charges will cover the operating costs to the grid for customers with solar panels who aren’t paying the traditional rates, but all of the evidence surrounding the proposal suggests that this plan is little more than a reactionary measure from a company whose business model is in serious trouble. The proposal would raise the fixed charge on all residents’ power bills from $9 to $16 per month, and impose an additional fee for those who sell their excess electricity back to the utility through a policy known as “net metering.” A Wisconsin solar installer stated, “The demand charge of $3.80 per kilowatt (kW) per month works out to about $220 per year for a 5 kW system, a deterrent for potential solar customers and an unfair penalty for those who have already chosen to go solar.” A spokesperson for WE Energies said the company is seeking modest increases for the purpose of improving and modernizing their grid and complying with environmental standards. The company believes that it is unfair for those who generate their own electricity to use the grid without paying the same portion of the […]

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Exxon Feels the Heat and Responds to the Divestment Movement  

The global fossil fuel divestment movement has been gaining a lot of steam over the past year, enough to elicit a response from one of the largest oil companies in the world – ExxonMobil. In a blog posted to their website, the oil giant attempted to explain why the continued use of oil, gas, and coal to power our economies is the only viable way forward, while dismissing both the potential of renewable sources of energy and the costs imposed by a changing climate. The reality is that fossil fuels still provide the lion’s share of the global energy supply, but the assertion that it has to be this way couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the blog post, Exxon outlines their case for fossil fuels, stating “divestment represents a diversion from the real search for technological solutions to managing climate risks.” Exxon’s idea of a technological solution to managing a climate risk, of course, is the natural gas boom currently underway in the United States. In addition to creating plenty of jobs along the supply chain and accounting for a sizeable chunk of the nation’s GDP, natural gas is supposedly responsible for the return to 1990’s emissions levels that the US has experienced over the past few years. Even ignoring the obvious environmental risks to soil, air, and groundwater associated with natural gas production, fugitive methane emissions from drilling sites are often understated and likely have a greater […]

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New Tool for Fossil Fuel Divestment

The Fossil Free Index tracks the stock market’s performance, minus the oil, gas, and coal industries.  Given the link between burning fossil fuels and global climate change, financial professionals are increasingly searching for investment opportunities that exclude oil, gas, and coal companies. Fossil-Free Indexes LLC (FFI), an environmental, social, and governance index and research company released its first broad American market fossil-free index last week. The announcement of the new index is a timely contribution to the growing fossil fuel company divestment movement across the country.  Market indices represent the value of an entire stock market at a single moment, and may be used to track changes over time. The Fossil-Free Index is based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, omitting any fossil fuel companies identified by FFI’s “The Carbon Underground 200,” a proprietary list cataloguing some of the most carbon-intensive investment options. The release of the index, coming in the same week as the Rhodium Group’s “Risky Business” report on the broad economic effects of climate change, strengthens the message that a warming globe is most certainly not good for businesses. As rising temperatures and more intense weather events become commonplace, so do the risks of damage to critical infrastructure and natural resources. By seeking out opportunities for economic growth while minimizing the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions (by decentivizing them altogether), investors can help shift focus away from climate- damaging fossil fuels, and towards efficient, clean, […]

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As Solar Prices Fall, Banks Take Notice

Following a series of reports from major Wall Street institutions, Barclays announced this week that it would downgrade the entire U.S. electric utility sector bond market ratings against the U.S. corporate bond index due to the “challenge from ratepayers’ increasing opportunities to cut electricity consumption with solar and battery storage.” Translation: the cost of powering homes and businesses with solar energy is continuing its trend downward as more consumers opt to get their electricity from the sun instead of from traditional utility grids. Though Barclays warns against optimism over rapid growth in the solar industry, their downgrade represents a shift in paradigm regarding energy markets. Traditional electric utility bonds were long considered a solid, conservative investment, and they provided investors with steady returns while allowing people in most areas of the country to enjoy the use of consistent, reliable electricity. Electric utilities currently make up about 7.5% of Barclays’ U.S. Corporate Index by market value. But as the grid ages and the price of fossil fuels rises, utilities struggle to maintain their position as the most cost-effective means of powering the modern world. Generating electricity with the sun’s energy and storing it in hi-tech batteries is sounding like the best bet for more people each day, and the financial world is catching on quickly. Though nobody can forecast the future, there is a growing consensus that advances in solar power and storage technologies will likely be the main challenge to […]

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U.N. Reports on Climate Change Mitigation

The latest installment of the U.N’s fifth Climate Assessment Report explores what we must do in order to lessen the negative impacts of a changing climate.  As our understanding of climate change continues to develop, we hear more and more about a few particularly important numbers: to ensure that average global temperature increase does not exceed 2oC by the year 2100, we mustn’t allow the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to exceed 350 ppm (parts per million). Currently, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 400ppm, with an additional 2ppm emitted each year. Accounting for population and economic growth, CO2 concentrations are projected land between 750 and 1,300 ppm by the end of the century. To offset the emissions resulting from this growth, we need to substantially cut emissions by 2050 (by 40-70%), and to completely cease emissions by 2100. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released its third working group summary this weekend in Berlin, Germany, as a part of its fifth Climate Assessment Report. Previous working group summaries have tackled the physical scientific aspects of changing climate systems, as well as impacts, adaptations, and vulnerabilities for people across the globe. The latest installment examines the topic of mitigation: the “human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.” There are currently great efforts underway to achieve both goals of greenhouse gas mitigation. Forests are one of our most valuable carbon sinks; trees […]

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July Green-Biz Interview: Brian Higgins of Green Home, LLC

“I started this company when I became convinced that green building was simply 21st Century building technology,” says Brian Higgins of Green Home, LLC. “When I look around and see what is happening to our planet, I am constantly reminded that we human beings, as an animal species, as intelligent beings, as a spiritual force, need to do better.” We asked Brian to tell us more about Green Home LLC, energy efficiency, reusable materials, and the evolution of the green economy.

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